While we were wandering through the roads of West Virginia and listening to the most popular song about the state "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver, I started wondering about the lyrics and how they portray the soul of this country.
A song can become such a hit only when it has the potential to enter the hearts of everyone, no matter what country you live in. I remember humming this song myself in Lithuania and thinking about an unvisited far away country called the USA, but I had hardly made any association with rural America at that time. Neither did the words "Appalachian culture" ring a bell to me. The song goes:
“Life is old there, older than the trees, Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze”
Life is old here, miners are still worshipped heroes and packs of cigarettes cost $3. The trucks are full of logs and streets do not have names. Life is old in West Virginia by all means. Nothing will surprise you for a hundred miles you travel past. Just a unique feeling that you are home. Peaceful homes in the mountains, rivers and unpaved roads to the mines cover most of this state. If you had an adventurous attitude to travel, West Virginia would hardly please you, but it would easily fulfill the needs of cultural explorations.
“All my memories, gather round her Miner's lady, stranger to blue water”
So the song and the state itself reminds about the rural life with no big cities or urban noise around. Only simple homes that fit here.
“Driving down the road I get a feeling That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday”
According to the absolutely riveting podcast called "Dolly Parton's America", country music really took off only when people started migrating to cities, leaving the rural life behind, and longing for the homes they left behind or never had. So even if you have never lived in the country, but still feel a connection to the song, you're not alone.
While the roads kept swinging, I remembered a guy, who told me, that 100 years for Americans is a long time and 100 miles is a huge distance for Europeans. So if miners and cheap cigarettes do not sound like history to you yet, I bet 100 miles sounds like a far distance, which you would have to travel to get to civilization here.
If you would like to experience the USA in a short period of time, I would say go to California and West Virginia. From the home of liberal democracy to the values protected by radical conservatives. And the rest just makes it easier to understand the difference between these two opposing sides.
P. S. You can find my Spy Story about The Greenbrier hotel HERE.